mac & cheese

I had two Thanksgiving meals this week and my daughter, when I spoke to her via phone, stated, “Isn’t it a little early?”

I suppose that yes, it’s early to be celebrating Thanksgiving, but it’s November so why not? Thanksgiving is quite possibly my favorite holiday. Because of a few reasons. Mainly because it encompasses a meal. That’s the entirety of it, right? Dinner, whether held at noon or 4pm or 6pm. It’s getting together with a group of people and eating. People cooking. Transporting their favorite accompaniment of turkey. Driving to grandma’s or flying back home across the country or going across town to a friend’s.

My childhood Thanksgivings were a combination of the traditional and the not. I grew up 1300 miles from my grandparents’. Which means we did not see them every holiday. Our family of four had no relatives in our town, in our state, or in the entire Southwest. So we got together with friends. And had a potluck sort of Thanksgiving. One particular family generally hosted Thanksgiving and ours handled Easter and occasionally Christmas. The Thanksgiving hosts were inclined to grill steaks or offer a meat selection outside of the turkey and ham variety…which didn’t always sit so well with my mom. I remember one year entailed this particular local sausage. She is a self proclaimed “traditionalist” when it comes to holiday food. But when I think about it now, everyone has their own idea of “traditional”. Thanksgiving for my mother equals a turkey roasted in a roaster (not the oven), a spiral ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy (homemade, thank you), wild rice, cranberry salad, seven layer salad, corn, a relish plate (ask me later if you don’t know what that consists of), pumpkin pie, German chocolate pie (which I wish I had right this instant), and her home baked rolls, which are called “Vi’s Rolls”. Vi was a friend of my dad’s mom (I think). And I guarantee you will not eat a better roll. It’s a process and one my mom, who wakes up at 4am everyday anyway, is willing to go through. Oh, and tea. My mom makes the best tea. As in the sweet variety. Plus, a sweet potato casserole I would not try until I became an adult and now I question my adolescent intelligence because it is delicious.

This week, I enjoyed observing my work friends prepare our annual family Thanksgiving meal. We invite all the kids we work with and their families. Plus our volunteers and staff and their families. It’s a good time. My favorite work day. Turkeys were smoked and fried and roasted. And the mac & cheese discussion ensued. Which brought to mind a bunch of different thoughts. For me. Probably because I think too much. But…my mom would never even think to make mac & cheese for Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, I don’t recall my mom ever preparing homemade mac & cheese. But this week, this week, I laughed as we seriously considered whether Velveeta is a legitimate ingredient contender.

Our family dinner consisted of the above mentioned, plus tamales, greens, taquitos, two Little Caesar’s pizzas, casseroles, homemade bread and store-bought and corn bread, and desserts and Kool Aid. Plus lemonade and tea and a Mexican hot chocolate drink. And a bunch of other stuff. Like sweet potatoes. Plus hot sauce.

The next evening I sat in the same gym and enjoyed yet another Thanksgiving meal. This one a bit smaller scale. Some of the same crowd. Some different people. A Peruvian dish. A pumpkin bisque. A veggie casserole. More turkey. No Kool Aid but someone brought a bottle of cranberry mango juice. The dinner capped the harvest season of our CSA (community supported agriculture). A farmer was asked to share his thoughts. As were others. I, by this point in the week, was exhausted. Yet thankful for the people there. Those who love our community. Who want the best for others.

I am filled with joy because both my kids will be with me for Thanksgiving. My son is our resident chef. He’s been cooking his entire life and my daughter and I are happy to fall in line as sous-chefs, submitting to his lead. We’re not planning to have turkey. And that’s alright with us. Honestly, two turkey dinners in a row this week was enough for me. But I do look forward to being in the kitchen with my son and daughter. The banter and the laughter and the gratitude. No matter what we cook or bake. My kids want Crack Pie. Something they have eaten at Milk Bar in NYC. I look forward to celebrating Erin’s birthday (my son’s girlfriend). Time around the table, around food and my people, is what’s important to me.

I am gonna take a moment and brag on myself, because it IS my blog, after all…I have come a long way. There were some Thanksgivings which were anything but joyful. Times which were devastatingly difficult. And today, today in a way, I’ve come back around to the joy. Four years ago today I posted a blog entry. November 10, 2014. You can find it if you wish, as I don’t care to share the link. But…yesterday it rained and I was happy. Today it’s sunny and I’m happy. Despite so much. Questions. The past. The future. Today I am thankful.

Grateful for a mom who taught me how to cook so I could help teach my son. And now he can cook for all of us. Grateful for a daughter who cares for people and is more like the women in my dad’s family than she will ever probably realize. Grateful for a gym full of people…all who are part of my family. Thankful for rainy days and sunny days because I need them both the same. And of course, mac & cheese.

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